Uganda drafts new anti-gay laws

Politicians want seven-year prison term for ‘promotion’ of homosexuality, according to leaked copy

The Ugandan government could introduce new wide-reaching anti-gay laws before the end of the year, which could see people jailed for up to seven years for “promoting homosexuality”, activists warned on Saturday.

The move comes nearly a year after Ugandan politicians passed legislation that could have imposed life sentences on gays. The bill was struck down by the constitutional court on a technicality.

According to a leaked copy of the new draft law, MPs have instead focused on outlawing the “promotion” of homosexuality – a potentially far more repressive and wide-reaching measure.

Frank Mugisha, a gay-rights activist, said: “People don’t realise that the ‘promotion’ part of it will affect everybody. If newspapers report about homosexuality it could be seen as promotion. My Twitter account could be seen as promotion. All human rights groups that include LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender] rights defence in their activities could be accused of promotion.”

According to the draft, anyone convicted of “promoting” homosexuality would be liable to seven years in prison. “We have confirmed that the draft comes from the cabinet. Their plan is to present it to parliament as soon as possible, before the end of the year,” Mugisha said.

“They have just twisted the language but it is the same thing. It’s actually worse because the ‘promotion’ part is harsher and it will punish the funding of LGBT and human rights groups.”

The new draft also outlaws “funding for purposes of promoting unnatural sexual practices” and “exhibiting unnatural sexual practices”, and deems consent invalid as a defence.

Mugisha said the legislation would result in violence against gay people. He believed upcoming elections were the motivation for politicians to make a renewed assault on homosexuality and that activists would seek to have the draft law abandoned.

The government has not commented on the draft, although Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has been under pressure for several months from his own party to ensure that anti-gay legislation is passed.

Homophobia is rife in the socially conservative country, but activists held a gay pride rally in August that was granted permission by the police.

However, Museveni said last month that the country needed to consider the impact on trade and economic growth that such a crackdown could have.

Critics said the president signed the previous law to win support ahead of a presidential election scheduled for 2016, which will mark his 30th year in power.

Although very popular domestically, the previous law was branded draconian and “abominable” by rights groups and condemned by allies and donors including the EU and the US.

Barack Obama had described the legislation as “a step backward for all Ugandans”.

Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda under a 1950s penal code that remains in force and prescribes jail for those found guilty of homosexual acts.

by Chris Johnston and agencies
Source – The Guardian